NFL Power Rankings: Breakdown of Every NFL Team by Division

Brandon GalvinFeatured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2011

NFL Power Rankings: Breakdown of Every NFL Team by Division

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    Let’s break down every NFL team division by division just like every man broke down which shoe they might wear in Tom Brady’s new UGG commercial.

    Come on, once you saw Brady throw for 517 yards and four touchdowns on Monday Night Football, you know you looked at those UGG shoes in a new light. Brady is godly.

    The first week of the post-lockout NFL season did not disappoint. It was as wild as ever.

    We saw several teams exposed as phonies. Yes, I’m looking at you Kansas City and Indianapolis.

    New England, Green Bay and Philadelphia confirmed everybody’s thoughts. They’re Super Bowl contenders and will be there all season.

    We saw stunning performances from the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans and Baltimore Ravens. The Steelers look like they’re going to suffer a Super Bowl hangover despite being stacked on both sides of the ball.

    Oddly enough, arguably the most competitive division in the NFL is winless after Week 1. The NFC South had difficult matchups across the slate and failed to deliver.

    The NFC East and AFC South divisions used to be the most competitive in their respective conferences, but no more.

    Let’s take a trip down memory lane and take a look into our crystal ball while assessing each team division by division. 

AFC East

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    Buffalo Bills

    I’m predicting the Bills start the season 2-0 after calling the upset against the Chiefs. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a smart QB who makes good decisions with the ball, which is often underrated. They have a two-headed rushing attack and an emerging elite WR in Stevie Johnson. The defense is not as good as they showed against the Chiefs, but it’s an solid unit.

    Miami Dolphins

    The Dolphins played the Patriots much closer than I thought in the first half. This is a good team. They are a dark horse to make the postseason if Chad Henne continues to throw the ball like he did last night. Reggie Bush is running stronger than ever and they have a quality defense.

    New England Patriots

    The defense will click much sooner than later. It may not matter when Tom Brady is dissecting quality secondary units for 517 yards and four scores. The 2010 unanimous MVP is continuing his historic pace. The Pats are still the team to beat in the AFC.

    New York Jets

    Rex Ryan’s Jets may be the most resilient team in the league. It is imperative that the offense takes the leap to the next level, but at least they can hang their hats on Super Bowl caliber defense and special teams play. The Jets are every bit the contender we thought.

AFC North

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    Baltimore Ravens

    Next to New England, the Ravens are the class of the AFC. This team is stacked on both sides of the ball. Joe Flacco is ready to emerge as an elite QB. More importantly, the rushing game with Ray Rice is going to take off. The defense is full of veterans and the pass-rush will improve a banged up secondary.

    Cincinnati Bengals

    Cincinnati pulled away late thanks to Cedric Benson and a breakdown in coverage that led to A.J. Green’s first touchdown. This defense is underrated and all they need is the combination of Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski to not put them in a poor position. The playoffs aren’t in their future, but they won’t be the worst team in the league as many predicted.

    Cleveland Browns

    Cleveland disappointed at home, but they’ll make some noise on the road against the Colts. This team finally has a legitimate franchise QB in Colt McCoy and a bulldozer in Peyton Hillis. This defense is rapidly improving. They won’t make the playoffs, again. Still, they’ll give people fits, again.

    Pittsburgh Steelers

    The Steelers were trounced by the Baltimore Ravens. It was embarrassing. Most analysts have been crying for the Steelers to improve their offensive line and it’s finally going to come back to haunt them. Willie Colon could be lost for the season and all of a sudden the Steelers have an inexperienced line protecting Ben Roethlisberger, who already gets hit more than you’d like.

AFC South

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    Houston Texans

    The Texans have a Super Bowl caliber offense, we know that. It’s Wade Phillips’ defense that will continue to improve and impress. Their draft picks and offseason acquisitions will put this defense over the top and allow them to win the AFC South and make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

    Indianapolis Colts

    I gave the Colts the benefit of the doubt without Peyton Manning, but no more. This team is terrible without him. The defense has been exposed. You have to wonder if Curtis Painter would’ve given them a better chance than Kerry Collins in Week 1. Andrew Luck may be in their future.

    Jacksonville Jaguars

    I pegged Jacksonville as a dark horse playoff team, but Jack del Rio cutting David Garrard will throw that out the window. It’s nice to see them get a win, but their QB play will hold them back. Still, they play winning football with a stout defense and Maurice Jones-Drew pounding the rock.

    Tennessee Titans

    As expected, Tennessee’s aerial attack was better with Matt Hasselbeck. Still, this defense leaves much to be desired and will hold the Titans back. Chris Johnson will get in a groove sooner than later, but the Titans won’t come close to making the postseason. 

AFC West

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    Denver Broncos

    Denver underwhelmed at home on Monday Night Football against the Raiders. It was a rather embarrassing performance, actually. It’s time to put the kibosh on the Kyle Orton nonsense and get Tim Tebow in there to rejuvenate the team. The ground game was terrible, despite boasting the potential to have one of the best in the league. The talented defense disappointed mightily. They can scuffle all they want, but it won’t win them games.

    Kansas City Chiefs

    Kansas City was on upset alert heading into Week 1 and they proved me right. This team is crumbling before our eyes and will surely miss the playoffs. They lost one of the best defensive players in the league in Eric Berry for the season. The talented secondary is now just two talented cornerbacks. They still have pieces, but an 0-2 start is in their future with a road trip to Detroit.

    Oakland Raiders

    Oakland was impressive Week 1 in Denver. They took it to the Broncos in winning fashion—smash-mouth ground game and tough-nosed defense. Despite the loss of Nnamdi Asomugha, I like the way these Raiders play ball even more. I think they’ll be a middle of the pack team again, but these are the necessary steps to get back to the top.

    San Diego Chargers

    San Diego pulled through against Minnesota thanks mostly to Mike Tolbert, who scored three touchdowns. This is a Super Bowl caliber team, but they are still shaky mentally. It is up to Takeo Spikes to take over this team as the leader. Tolbert’s ability to pound the rock will prove to be invaluable down the stretch and get the Chargers into the postseason.

NFC East

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    Dallas Cowboys

    The Ryan Bros. are geniuses. Rob Ryan’s Cowboys defense will prove to be a Super Bowl caliber squad, especially with DeMarcus Ware working all over the field. Still, this team won’t go anywhere as long as Tony Romo is the QB. Felix Jones will also have to prove he can carry a full load, which is doubtful. It’s a shame Miles Austin, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant won’t see the postseason because they deserve to.

    New York Giants

    Injuries have decimated this team. The offensive line did not look as good as they did in the preseason. Justin Tuck isn’t a lock for Week 2 and Hakeem Nicks is dealing with a knee issue. Eli Manning will have to turn into Tom Brady to keep this team out of the cellar.

    Philadelphia Eagles

    Michael Vick’s Eagles got very lucky Steven Jackson got hurt. St. Louis’ game plan was to run S-Jax right into that front seven and they were exposed instantly. The defense took it to Vick early, but Vick proved how resilient he is. He worked out the kinks and carried over his awesome play from last year. Super Bowl or bust with the Eagles. This secondary will gel quickly and they’ll have to with a tough test against Atlanta Week 2.

    Washington Redskins

    Washington stomped my Giants so I have to give them props. This team continued their solid preseason play and took it to an injury-ridden team. Both sides of the defense were much better than I imagined. Like I said before the draft, Ryan Kerrigan won’t impress in individual drills, but he is a great playmaker on the field and has a knack for getting to the ball. 

NFC North

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    Chicago Bears

    I didn’t see that dominant performance coming. The Bears were one of the most impressive teams in Week 1 and could very well go undefeated at home with that crowd. Their Super Bowl caliber defense will only improve by leaps and bounds when Brandon Meriweather gets up to speed. Many, including myself, were wrong to start writing them off before the season.

    Detroit Lions

    The Lions were everything we expected them to be out of the gate. Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the offense were nearly unstoppable in the first half. They do have secondary issues, but the entire defense will be much improved when rookie DT Nick Fairley is finally 100 percent.

    Green Bay Packers

    What’s there to say? The defending Super Bowl Champs looked awesome Week 1 considering their opponent. Aaron Rodgers was unstoppable. The combination of James Starks and Ryan Grant will keep the Packers atop the division all year. We’ll see what happens with Tramon Williams’ shoulder, but they still have an incredible secondary without him.

    Minnesota Vikings

    Donovan McNabbb was much worse than I expected, but they met my expectations overall. They do need to get Adrian Peterson more carries and receptions. The offense must flow through him more to open the passing attack for these lackluster receivers. They also need to get rookie TE Kyle Rudolph involved more.

NFC South

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    Atlanta Falcons

    Atlanta was steamrolled by the Bears’ defense, but that won’t happen every week. They had one of the toughest Week 1 matchups and will rebound immediately. Matt Ryan is still on my radar to become the next elite QB. They have a tough test with Michael Vick’s Eagles, but it’ll be a close matchup. Even if they go down 0-2, I’m not concerned yet.

    Carolina Panthers

    Cam Newton was spectacular in his debut as he set the Week 1 rookie record for passing with 422 yards. Was it a fluke? No. Will he do that every game? No. Still, Newton is going to keep the Panthers competitive each week with his playmaking abilities. Carolina may not win many games, but these are the necessary growing pains towards a Super Bowl contender.

    New Orleans Saints

    Can’t fault the Saints for their Week 1 road efforts against the defending Super Bowl Champs. They lost on the very last play of the game. Sean Payton had two glaring questionable calls and Drew Brees looked more rattled than normal throughout, but I still have faith in them. Luckily, every team in the division lost Week 1.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Tampa Bay isn’t nearly as bad as they showed Week 1. They couldn’t gel and escaped devastation as Josh Freeman finished the game. This young front seven could hold the defense back since Ronde Barber and Aquib Talib can’t cover receivers forever. It is imperative they get the ground game going with LeGarrette Blount or they will regress mightily this season.

NFC West

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    Arizona Cardinals

    Arizona’s offense is solid, but the defense leaves much to be desired. They immediately felt the loss of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as Cam Newton shredded their talented secondary. Still, Patrick Peterson is a threat on returns, which will help them moving forward. Beanie Wells looks every bit like the breakout running back I envisioned.

    San Francisco 49ers

    Wow, Ted Ginn isn’t completely worthless after all. This team still has issues on offense, but the defense  is solid. Patrick Willis is the best linebacker in the NFL and finally has some help around him. Justin Smith looked great against Seattle’s offensive line.

    Seattle Seahawks

    I gave Seattle the benefit of the doubt heading into the season, but they were just as pathetic as advertised during the preseason. Tarvaris Jackson will make you puke. The offensive line is marred by injuries and Marshawn Lynch isn’t in beast mode. The defense let me down Week 1. I had one leg on the bandwagon out of blind faith from their 2010 postseason, but I’m officially hopping off.

    St. Louis Rams

    Injuries derailed their upset bid Week 1, but most agreed they were going to lose to Philadelphia regardless. This team has one of the tougher first-half schedules, so the loss of Steven Jackson and Danny Amendola for the first four to six weeks won’t matter much. They can still sweep the division and finish the season with seven or eight wins to make the playoffs.

NFL Power Rankings

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    Below are my NFL Power Rankings taking into account Week 1 performances and upcoming predictions.

    Who do you think is best suited for a Super Bowl run?

    Who is inching closer to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 Draft?

    Who shocked you Week 1?

    Which teams, pretenders do you see staying on course to fight for a playoff spot?

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    1. Green Bay Packers 
    2. New England Patriots 
    3. Baltimore Ravens 
    4. Chicago Bears 
    5. Philadelphia Eagles 
    6. New York Jets 
    7. Pittsburgh Steelers 
    8. New Orleans Saints 
    9. San Diego Chargers 
    10. Atlanta Falcons 
    11. Houston Texans 
    12. Dallas Cowboys 
    13. Detroit Lions 
    14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 
    15. Arizona Cardinals 
    16. Oakland Raiders 
    17. San Francisco 49ers 
    18. Jacksonville Jaguars 
    19. Washington Redskins 
    20. Buffalo Bills 
    21. Miami Dolphins 
    22. Carolina Panthers 
    23. New York Giants 
    24. Minnesota Vikings 
    25. Cincinnati Bengals 
    26. Cleveland Browns 
    27. St. Louis Rams 
    28. Denver Broncos 
    29. Kansas City Chiefs 
    30. Tennessee Titans 
    31. Indianapolis Colts 
    32. Seattle Seahawks 
    Brandon Galvin's NFL Power Rankings